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warning sign October 31 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 13:24-31; Matthew 24:29-35; Luke 21:25-38; Mark 13:32-37; Matthew 24:36-51; Matthew 25:1-46

Watch for the Signs

This day is Halloween in America, and certainly we want to watch out for trick or treaters, but this is also a time for the change of seasons. The change of seasons usually brings rain, severe weather, and sometimes high tides. We learn to watch for signs of danger in the weather, but when our Lord tells his disciples to watch for the signs of the times, he means for them to discern the signs of prophetical fulfillment. Since the prophecies in today's Bible reading are yet unfulfilled, we can watch for these signs as well.

In about 30 AD when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to the praise of the people, the disciples thought he came into Jerusalem to be crowned king. But then Jesus did nothing. He did not start a revolution against the Roman government, and he did not proclaim himself king. He did a lot of teaching, overturned the moneychangers at the temple again, and argued with the religious leaders, but he did nothing subversive.

As Jesus and his disciples are quietly leaving Jerusalem, his followers admire the recently rebuilt and expanded Jewish temple which King Herod has built. Then Jesus shocks them by informing them that the temple will be destroyed. This prompts two questions: First, when will the destruction of Herod’s temple occur; and second, what will be the sign of your coming [meaning to rule and reign]?

The disciples think Jesus’ rule will occur very soon, but Jesus answer is that it will not be brought about for a long time. In fact, it has been almost 2,000 years since he prophesied his second coming. The plan of God which the Lord has been sharing with the disciples is that he will first be crucified, buried, and then raised to life. Jesus will afterwards go back to heaven. When the Holy Spirit comes, he will give spiritual life and power to the assembly of believers and all that believe the message of the gospel. This is the birth of the church (Acts 2). Throughout its growth, she will experience times of persecution before Jesus Christ comes back. The next event on God’s calendar is the sudden catching away (rapture*) of church age believers to meet Jesus in the clouds and be taken to heaven (1Thessalonians 4:13-18).

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus describes the conditions that will occur on the earth just prior to his second coming to the earth. The prophecies and parables are given primarily to Jews who will be living on the earth at that time. That time period is called The Tribulation Period. It is described in Revelation 5-19 and is termed in Jeremiah 30:7 as the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble. What will happen?

First, there will be a real Halloween nightmare. Just before Jesus comes back to earth there will be a shaking in the heavens. The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. The Apostle John comments further on this event, saying, “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night,” (Revelation 8:12, NIV).

Just how will this happen? Will the earth be knocked out of its orbit by large meteor showers? We don’t really know, but it will happen because God predicts it. Based on the literal and complete fulfillment of all previous prophecies, we can be sure of it. Jesus says, “this generation [meaning the generation of people living in The Tribulation Period] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened,” (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32, NIV). To the Jews living in that day, Jesus cautions, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man,” (Luke 21:36, NIV). It is true that Christian believers in this age may have to suffer for their faith, but they will not have to go through The Tribulation Period. However, are we ready to meet Jesus either through death or when he catches us away to go with him to heaven?

Second, Jesus will come suddenly. Mark, an associate of the Apostle Peter* writes in his book that know man knows the day or hour of Christ's return, not even Jesus himself (Mark 13:32). He continues, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:36-37, NIV). Are we watching for Jesus to suddenly appear in the clouds of the sky?

A young person that has a traveling parent watches earnestly for his father or mother to return. In the meantime, this child is careful to obey his authorities so that when his parent returns he will be proud of him. Is this how we are watching? This is the point of the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them are good and are ready for the bridegroom to come. They have oil in their lamps and are ready to depart. The others have no oil and are not ready. Oil in the Bible usually symbolizes the Holy Spirit of God. Do we have the Holy Spirit of God within us? If not, we do not belong to him and are not ready for his return (Romans 8:9-11). We must individually believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on our behalf to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He will then seal us until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), and we will be ready for Christ’s return (more...)

The parable of the talents urges Jews, who will be true Christian believers in the Tribulation Period, to use their resources for God’s glory. If they do, they will prove they are true believers; if not, then they show they are not true believers and will be punished. How about us? Are we true believers? Does it show by our works? Are we using our resources for God’s glory?

Third, when Jesus comes, he will rule and reign in great glory with more power and magnificence than any king of the earth. In the beginning of his reign he will judge all nations. The word “nations” means “Gentiles” so Jews are not involved in this judgment. Jews will be saved earlier and taken out of the Great Tribulation. This judgment on the Gentiles is called the Sheep and Goat Judgment. Those who are righteous (sheep) will enter into his kingdom. Those who are unrighteous (goats) will be cast into eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). How will it be shown who is righteous and who is unrighteous? It will be shown by people’s kindness for the sake of Christ. Even unbelievers show kindness from time to time, but do they do it for Christ? No. They may do it for altruistic reasons or for the pleasure it gives them, but they do not do it for Christ. They have no relationship with Christ, so they cannot be part of his kingdom.

We believers will not go through the Sheep and Goat Judgment because it is a judgment which occurs at the end of the Tribulation for those who are fortunate enough to survive, but our works will still be judged by God (1Corinthians 3:12-15; 2Corinthians 5:10). Jesus has left for a long time, but he will be coming back to rule and reign. When he comes, he will hold his servants accountable. What will he say of us? Let us be found faithful and always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Lesson to Live By

  • Jesus is coming again. Will you be ready? (more...).
  • Let us watch for Jesus and look for the signs of his coming.
  • Let us seek to please God so he will be proud of us when we see him.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Matthew 24:42 (NIV) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

*in Latin, an early translation language of the Bible, the word for "caught up" is "rapturo," from which we get the word rapture (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.704)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.95

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